Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Hidden Columnists
11 October Edition

Time to cross the NYTimes Times Select firewall border to see what their intrepid columnists are putting out today. First up, Nicholas Kristof, writing from Niger and focusing on famine:

In Niger, it has been apparent since the beginning of this year that a food crisis was coming, but the world ignored a U.N. emergency appeal for $3 million in aid in February. Then in July, BBC television showed wrenching images of children dying. Niger promptly received more aid in the last 10 days of July than it had received in the previous eight months.

In fact, the situation is more complex than the television images suggest. The reality is that people in Niger are always starving.

"There was a crisis last year, and there'll be a crisis next year," said Claude Dunn, who runs the World Food Program office in Maradi. This year's crisis was especially bad, but year in, year out, 160,000 children under the age of 5 die in Niger - one child in four never reaches 5. In other words, every single week this small country faces a 9/11-sized toll, composed entirely of dead children. And yet no one is declaring: We are all Nigeriens.
Above all, we need a major new international initiative to extend the green revolution to Africa. Farmers in tropical Africa get only 1,500 pounds of cereal grain per acre, compared with 4,900 pounds in China. Pedro Sanchez, an agricultural expert at Columbia University, has estimated that Africans could triple food production if they used modern seeds and methods.
A major reason is that the soil has been depleted of nutrients. But in sub-Saharan Africa, farmers apply an average of 9 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare, compared with 206 kilos in industrialized countries.

In the news business, we don't lead with headlines like "Millions of Children Dying in Africa," because that's not actually news. It's the wallpaper.

Yet realities like that should inspire our priorities. And we're not even using our aid money wisely. Unless we help start a green revolution in Africa, we'll be back in Niger year after year - and every village will be surrounded by more tiny graves.

John Tierney blathers on about liberals outnumbering conservatives in journalism and law schools. Does anybody read this guy?


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